Health Worker Continues Commitment to Malaria Elimination Despite Injury
When Cairo Situlo learned of a new surveillance system that mobilizes community members and data, he sprung into action volunteering his time tracking down sources of malaria cases. He volunteers in the Southern Province Zambian city of Zimba to fight malaria in his community.
When a health facility or post receives a malaria-infected patient, it alerts community health workers (CHWs) near the patient’s household. The CHWs then open a case investigation- testing surrounding households and giving treatment where applicable.
Committed community health workers like Cairo are vital to the system and their work has increased access to care in rural areas of Zambia, stopping transmission of the disease. Nowhere was Mr. Situlo’s commitment more evident than following his accident in late 2014.
Returning from a training meeting on Sept. 30, Cairo and his malaria teams’ vehicle swerved off of the road and crashed into a tree breaking both of his humeri, or upper arm, bones. Because the accident happened about 20 meters off of the road, the other relatively uninjured passengers had to flag down a passing bus to help remove an unconscious Cairo from the crumpled truck. He was rushed to Zimba Mission Hospital, then Livingstone General Hospital.
From then on, Cairo was shuttled back and forth between Zimba Mission and Livingstone General with multiple bi-weekly follow up appointments. In June 2015, after weeks in casts and multiple follow-up appointments, x-rays showed that Cairo’s arms were not healed properly. He would need surgery. Throughout all the appointments and hospital visits, Cairo was still in contact with his community-led malaria team and working on reports despite his injuries.
“In training, we were told being a volunteer would make our communities better and I believe that,” said Situlo. “I will keep working even injured to help.”
Cairo finally received his surgery last month.
The yearlong ordeal for Situlo’s treatment is but one example of the need for healthcare improvement and capacity building in Zambia. Situlo’s dedication, even under extenuating circumstances is what makes these community-led programs successful.
About Alexis Barnes
Alexis Barnes is a communications and advocacy Global Health Corps fellow at Akros. Previously a NYC-based journalist, she has interests in development, sanitation issues and human rights.